Hearing on Six-Year Capital Improvement Program September 25

The Whatcom County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the draft Six-Year Capital Improvement Program (CIP) for Whatcom County Facilities 2015-2020 (Appendix F of the Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan) that would replace the existing Six-Year CIP for 2013-2018. The Six-Year CIP includes plans for County parks, trails, activity centers, maintenance and operations, general government buildings and sites, Sheriff’s Office facilities, emergency management, correction facilities, stormwater facilities and transportation.

The proposed amendments also include modifying the level of service (LOS) standards for parks and trails and eliminating the LOS standard for activity centers in the Capital Facilities chapter of the Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan.  File #PLN2014-00007. These amendments have already garnered a couple of written comments, objecting to the changes.

Read the Project information and draft proposal HERE. Hearing starts at 6:30 pm, at Northwest Annex, 5280 Northwest Drive, Bellingham. Written comments may be submitted to:  PDS_Planning_commission@co.whatcom.wa.us

Special Events Zoning goes back to the drawing board

Even more folks showed up to our third meeting on proposed Special Events zoning rules, and nothing was decided except that we didn’t like what was proposed. The Commission had unanimously tabled previous drafts “until it addresses the 10 percent worst offenders, not the 90 percent best.”

Following that decision, I spent a few hours talking with staff about my ideas for how to achieve this in the code, but hardly anything I recommended found its way into the new drafts considered at our September 11 meeting. After the new drafts came out, I asked what happened to my ideas, and didn’t really get a satisfactory answer. So I asked again at the August 11 meeting, and was told something like we just weren’t going to do it that way. I responded that “cause I say so” or “cause we don’t do things that way” aren’t satisfactory answers.

Every square inch of county land is governed by a zoning code, and if the code doesn’t say you can do something, then you can’t. The code already doesn’t allow many of these events that are taking place in rural residential and agricultural areas, unless the property owner gets a permit under the Home Occupations or Cottage Industry rules. The purpose of this exercise is to make these existing rules clear and easier to work with. These draft proposals represent a reorganization of existing code in many respects, and that’s what many Commissioners and the public are objecting to. There was never any intention in bringing up this issue to substantially change the rules in place. But now people better understand the rules in place, and they don’t like them.

The Commission asked staff to work with the public, and commissioners, to come up some alternative proposals. We have run out of time on our schedule and are moving on to Comprehensive Plan work, but at some point we expect to consider new proposals for special event zoning.

Town Hall Meeting on Comp Plan Update

The Whatcom County Planning Commission will host a town hall meeting regarding the periodic update of the Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan and the urban growth area (UGA) review, which are both required by the Growth Management Act under RCW 36.70A.130.  The update must be completed by June 2016.  The purpose of the town hall meeting is to discuss issues, and obtain public input, related to the Comprehensive Plan update and UGA review. Project information is available on the County website.

The town hall meeting will be held Thursday, October 9, 2014 at 6:30 p.m. at the Whatcom County Council Chambers, 311 Grand Avenue, Bellingham.  The public is invited to submit written comments and/or attend this meeting to provide oral comments. Written comments may be submitted to:
Whatcom County Planning Commission
ATTN: Becky Boxx
5280 Northwest Drive, Bellingham, WA  98226
Email: PDS_Planning_commission@co.whatcom.wa.us
For more information, please contact Matt Aamot at maamot@co.whatcom.wa.us or (360) 676-6907.

Next County Council meeting September 30
Watershed Improvement Districts are on the agenda, postponed from the last meeting.

FULL County Council AGENDA
Planning Commission AGENDA
Planning Commission Meeting Schedule

Full Agenda on Special Events and Surface Mining

In our third attempt, the Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on amendments to Whatcom County Zoning Code regarding Weddings, Receptions and Special Events, at it’s next meeting, Thursday, September 11, 6:30 pm at the County Annex, NW & Smith Roads. At its last two meetings the PC have hashed over various versions, and now we will consider two competing versions one “streamlined” and one “more prescriptive.”. The agenda materials are HERE.
At our last meeting, August 14, we had a full house of county residents commenting on the proposals. Some just wanted some kind of clear rules so they could know what they had to do. Another complained about a “festival” held that past weekend just feet from his house with pounding music all day and evening. One group had a planned event canceled because of one neighbor complaint lodged in advance. Clearly there is a need for some rules not only limiting event use on rural property but also rules defining appropriate use.

But the “what ifs” seem to be endless. It was pointed out by a past Planning Director that the county had tried to do this before and it was such a mess they gave up. I’m not sure where I’ll stand on these proposals come meeting time, but what I do know is that these zoning rules regulate temporary events so if they don’t work we can change then without any great damage or loss of value to property owners.

Amendments to Surface Mining rules

The September 11 meeting will also include a work session on amendments to the Whatcom County Code Title 20 and the Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan regarding surface mining permitting processes and mineral resource land designation criteria and processes. The agenda materials are HERE

Comprehensive Plan Update: Hearing on Six-Year Capital Improvement Program September 25

The Whatcom County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the draft Six-Year Capital Improvement Program (CIP) for Whatcom County Facilities 2015-2020 (Appendix F of the Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan) that would replace the existing Six-Year CIP for 2013-2018. The Six-Year CIP includes plans for County parks, trails, activity centers, maintenance and operations, general government buildings and sites, Sheriff’s Office facilities, emergency management, correction facilities, stormwater facilities and transportation.  The proposed amendments also include modifying the level of service (LOS) standards for parks and trails and eliminating the LOS standard for activity centers in the Capital Facilities chapter of the Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan.  File #PLN2014-00007.
This hearing will be held Thursday, September 25, 2014 at 6:30 p.m. at the Planning & Development Services Northwest Annex, 5280 Northwest Drive, Bellingham. Read the Project information and draft proposal HERE.
The public is invited to submit written comments and/or attend this meeting to provide oral comments. Written comments may be submitted to:
Whatcom County Planning Commission, ATTN: Becky Boxx, 5280 Northwest Drive
Bellingham, WA  98226. Email: PDS_Planning_commission@co.whatcom.wa.us

Next County Council meeting September 16

FULL County Council AGENDA
Planning Commission AGENDA
Planning Commission Meeting Schedule